Back in Business

Guatemala's Famed Billfish Grounds Are Back in Reach for American Fly-Fishermen

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"Out of gear," came the call from Capt. Chris Sheeder on the bridge of the 37 Merritt, Release. His inflection was dispassionate; you'd be hard-pressed to know that he's one of the top billfish skippers in Guatemala. It was probably only the 20,000th time he's given the command.

With the boat gliding forward, the mate snatched the hookless Moldcraft teaser from the water, and I made a short cast to the side and slightly behind the fish.

On cue, the blue-and-purple apparition turned to the left, saw the fly, and piled on it. Setting the hook across the fish's back, I secretly kept my fingers crossed. I hadn't said anything, and I didn't want to jinx it; if I could bring this fish to the boat, it would be the 100th Pacific sailfish release of my career.

After a short battle on 20-pound tippet, the mate was able to bill the fish and retrieve the fly.

With that, I let loose. Finally, I'd hit the century mark. And I was able to do it at the place where it all started a little over 10 years earlier, off Guatemala's Pacific coast.

The only casualty that night was a brand-new bottle of 12-year-old Flor de Caña.

I boated seven fish in two days and had a shot at a 250-pound blue marlin. Jim Turner, the new owner of Fins 'n Feathers Inn and Casa Vieja Lodge, apologized for the fishing. Celebrating, I assured him no apology was necessary. This was great fishing in anybody's book.

A Florida-based real-estate developer, Turner had been in negotiations with the owners of the former Fins 'n Feathers Lodge founded by Miami billfish enthusiast Tim Choate.

"In 2005, Tim closed the doors to his world-famous inn," says Turner. "After months of negotiations, we purchased the boats, the name, the contents - everything but the land from Tim. We are setting a new course that will improve upon the negatives of the original location while building on the positive aspects that thousands of anglers have come to expect when sailfishing in Guatemala. We've got world-class vessels run by highly respected American captains. Anglers can expect to return at day's end to the highest quality accommodations imaginable."

Turner's Casa Vieja property is located less than a mile from the entrance to Marina Pez Vela, where the boats are moored.

That's a very positive thing for those who have fished Iztapa before. Gone are the days of running the not-so-popular la cala de la muerte, the inlet of death.

Turner's fleet includes the Release, the 37 Gamefisher Intensity, the 37 Rybovich Pelagian and the 37 Daytona Cañaso.

The lush 10-room villa, complete with swimming pool, dining area and outdoor bar, can accommodate up to 20 guests, and with the fleet's complete selection of fly tackle and flies, all you need to bring is your passport and sunscreen.

For more information or to book your own billfishing adventure, contact Merijo Attong at mj@finsnfeathersinn.com or visit www.finsnfeathersinn.com for more information.